How to Get Rid of Intestinal Gas and Bloating

Isolating the cause can help improve your symptoms

We all know the feeling: Shortly after eating a delicious meal, your belly inflates like a balloon. The food feels like a rock sitting in your stomach. And if you're in public, you're fighting the urge to burp or belch or pass gas. 

Gas, bloating, and distention are not pleasant symptoms, and they can not only ruin an evening out, but they can also be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and if severe, downright painful. If you deal with these symptoms on a chronic basis, they may interfere with activities of daily life and perhaps even cause you to seek out medical help to beat the bloat. 

Rest assured, this is an extremely common problem. While it can be related to taking in too much air and making certain food choices, such as carbonated drinks or gas-causing foods such as beans or cruciferous veggies, it often occurs due to the fermentation of undigested food in the small intestine. Here's more on the science behind bloating and what you can do to stop or prevent it. 

1
Gas-Producing Foods

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As stated above, certain foods contain substances which are poorly digested. This means that their components are not absorbed into the bloodstream during the process of digestion. These components are therefore available to be fermented by intestinal bacteria, causing intestinal gas and bloat. This fermentation is actually good for our health, but it can become a problem when there is too much of it going on.

The following types of carbohydrates can be a problem for some people:

Many of the foods that are more likely to cause gas are healthy, such as vegetables and fruits. How would you know if these foods are a problem for you? You could try an elimination diet for a short period of time, followed by a reintroduction to see if your symptoms return.

Because these foods are good for you, it's important to eat them regularly, but you may want to skip or limit them on days that extra or trapped gas could pose a big problem (like a job interview or first date!). On those occasions, you may want to choose foods that are less likely to give you gas, such as foods that are predominantly protein.

2
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

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Back to the subject of intestinal bacteria that ferment our food, there is such a thing as having too much of a good thing. It's absolutely necessary and crucial to health to have a lot of bacteria in the colon, however, it's not normal or necessary to have that bacteria living in the small intestine. This is called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO. When these bacteria set up camp in the small intestine—where we assimilate the nutrients from food— they begin to feast on the food you eat, not only stealing nutrients but also creating symptoms such as bloating and distention, burping and belching, flatulence, nausea, and even vomiting and diarrhea. 

All the gas-producing foods on the previous slide often make SIBO symptoms worse. If you can never eat foods such as fruits, dairy, beans, or broccoli, that may be a tipoff that your small intestine has bacterial overgrowth. Easily fermentable carbohydrates can be the most problematic food group with SIBO, and again, these are referred to as FODMAPs

If you suspect you may have SIBO, ask your gastrointestinal doctor about taking the SIBO breath test, where you ingest a sugary substance and blow into a bag to test for the presence of specific gases released by SIBO bacteria. The presence of these gases in high amounts confirm the diagnosis of SIBO. Luckily, SIBO is being researched more extensively nowadays to determine the best way to treat it, though many treatments already exist, such as an antibiotic called rifaximin (brand name Xifaxan) that stays locally in the small intestine, as well as a low-FODMAP diet or specific carbohydrate diet (SCD), which are designed to limit the food supply to the bacteria.

For more information about SIBO, visit www.siboinfo.com, the website of Dr. Allison Siebecker, one of the pioneering SIBO researchers. 

3
Swallowed Air or Eating Too Quickly

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Another contributor to intestinal gas is swallowed air. Take a moment to think about some of your habits. Do you tend to eat or drink quickly? Do you chew gum or frequently suck on hard candies? Do you drink a lot of carbonated beverages? Are you a smoker (cigarettes, cigars, pipes)? All of these habits can cause you to take too much air into your digestive tract. One last possible contributor to excess intestinal gas is poorly fitted dentures.

4
Self-Care Strategies

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Reducing gas and bloating is not just about changing what you eat. Sometimes you need to make some simple behavioral changes as well. Here are some things you can try:

  • Use heat. A heating pad or hot water bottle can help to relax the muscles responsible for movement within your large intestine. This may help to move any trapped gas out of your system.
  • Have a hot cup of lemon water in the morning as soon as you rise. The warm liquid can help stimulate peristalsis, the contractions responsible for elimination. Regular elimination is important, as constipation can cause gas and bloating.
  • You could also use a laxative to get things moving. (If you experience chronic constipation, you should bring this to the attention of your physician.)
  • Move your body. Walking or some simple yoga twists may help to ease trapped gas. Wind-relieving pose in yoga is designed to help release gas. 
  • Sip some tea. Fennel tea, in particular, has a reputation for easing gas and bloating. 

5
Over-the-Counter Remedies

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Your drugstore will offer you a variety of remedies designed to reduce gas and bloating. Simethicone products, such as Gas-X, may bring about quick relief, although they may not work for everyone.

If you find that your gas and bloating is worse after eating beans or certain vegetables, you may find that Beano can be helpful.

If you are lactose intolerant, a lactase supplement, such as Lactaid, may help you to enjoy small amounts of dairy products without experiencing symptoms of excessive gassiness or other abdominal distress.

Probiotics are supplements that may help to treat the underlying cause of your excessive gassiness by theoretically fostering a more optimal balance of your gut bacteria

Sources 

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Gas and Bloating. June 2016 

Mayo Clinic. Gas and gas pains. Belching, intestinal gas, and bloating: Tips for reducing them. June 2017 

www.siboinfo.com. 

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